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Recent Posts

  1. Shoe Challenge 2013: January... the Conclusion
    Friday, February 01, 2013
  2. Making It Happen: Weight-loss
    Tuesday, January 29, 2013
  3. Making It Happen Monday: Weight-loss
    Monday, January 28, 2013
  4. Shoe Challenge 2013: Week 3
    Thursday, January 24, 2013
  5. Making It Happen: Doing Some Good (Donate)
    Wednesday, January 23, 2013
  6. Boutique Bubble? : DO GOOD STORE
    Tuesday, January 22, 2013
  7. Making It Happen Monday: Doing Some Good (Volunteering)
    Monday, January 21, 2013
  8. Shoe Challenge 2013: Week 2
    Thursday, January 17, 2013
  9. Making It Happen... Sort of...
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013
  10. Making It Happen: Money Matters
    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

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Shoe Challenge 2013: January... the Conclusion

You may know, that I challenged myself to lose 10lbs in the month of January. If I succeeded at my goal, then my husband would buy me a shiny new pair of running shoes!

I started out at 138... and I have ended, today, February 1st at:


Whaa Whaaa Whaaa.... Nope. I did not reach my goal, and I am happy to say that my husband didn't buy me any shoes anyway! I don't think I should get rewarded for NOT meeting my goal, but I'm still proud of myself! I have lost just about 7 lbs this month, and I wasn't killing myself doing it. I feel a lot better in my skin and I am a lot stronger. I mean, did I really lose the challenge?

I still want to reach my ultimate goal of weighing 125, so I guess...


It's on AGAIN!! This time, I weight 131.8, and by the end of February I want to be down to 125. Why do I think I can lose just over 6 lbs in the shortest month out of the year, when I only lost 7 lbs in a long month? Well, let me tell you why!! February is Mardi Gras, which also means the beginning of Lent. And this year for Lent, I am giving up sugar! Sugar is my biggest diet pitfall, so it should help me lose weight!

I'm doing it this time...because I really need new running shoes...

Making It Happen: Weight-loss

Losing Weight, Without Losing Your Budget

This week we are talking about how to lose weight. It is a common New Year's Resolution... and right about now is when people start falling off the wagon. If you live in Louisiana, then you know that Mardi Gras activities are in full swing, galas, king cakes, and parades. I mean, it's called Fat Tuesday for a reason, not to be ironic. Plus, aside from Mardi Gras, we have Valentine's Day coming up. That is the unofficial chocolate holiday. Everyone at the office is giving candy and then you'll probably go to to dinner or something to celebrate it (whether you want to or not). The diet pitfalls are coming, but it is possible to still make weight-loss happen, even under these circumstances.

Something that was a real life-saver for me this summer and fall was that I started to work out with my friends once a week. We didn't take a class or anything, we just got together and did something. We originally started this to tag along with a friend who was training for an extreme event called GoRuck. Basically, we ran around downtown with weighed backpacks. It was fun! But then people in the group started whining and the group broke-up. But a few of my girl friends and I decided to keep doing our own thing.

The idea sparked into a challenge to figure out a group exercise activity, that we didn't have to pay for, that was effective, and we could all go. I wanted to share some of our ideas with you, and a few new ones that I want to try. Who said you had to buy a gym membership to get a dynamic workout?

Downtown Runs:
We ran around downtown with weighted backpacks again, which is a lot of fun and you will get some interesting looks. All we would do is park at the Boardwalk, run over the Texas Street Bridge (it's a half mile long) and make a big square around downtown. If we saw stairs, we would run up them. If we saw a small wall, we would climb over it. We would sprint up parking decks and walk along ledges. It was really a lot of fun. It kind of felt like being a kid again! We would say we were running from some bad guys or something, it would give us purpose.



Most of the time our "runs" like this lasted about an hour and involved very little running. When you have 15lbs strapped to your back, the last thing you want to do is sprint. Mainly we walked really fast and jogged intermittently. The terrain downtown is pretty diverse, if you know where to look and have a little imagination!
Note: I wouldn't do this alone. This is definitely an activity for a group, 4-6 usually works best. Safety in numbers! And it wouldn't hurt to add a male or two to your group... not only will they make you feel safer, but they will probably push you to go faster than normal.

Stairs!


I love doing stairs. I do them probably once a week if the weather is nice. Doing stairs with friends is a lot more fun and more challenging. Mainly it's more challenging because you're trying to talk and work-out, which is REALLY hard. Plus, I've noticed a huge difference in my lung capacity since I incorporated this into my routine.

(Steep Stairs in the Back)

Originally I started doing stairs because my trainer told me to, but now I do them all on my own. My routine has changed up since then, but stairs a still a lot of fun. PLUS! They do wonders for the booty!

(Short Stairs in the Front)

All we do is alternate sprinting and walking up the stairs for 30-35 minutes. Usually we try to do sets of 5-7 on each set of steps at the CenturyLink Center. There are, I think seven sets of stairs in front of the CL Center, but I typically stick to the two sets of stairs on either side of the main entrance. There's a steep set, and a short set. I'll alternate sprints and walks up each set of stairs on either side of the building. I mapped it for you today.

And I try to jog from one set to the other... but that never works out. And when I want up the stairs, I vary my angles. For example, when I walked up the steep stairs, 2 of my passes of walking up where side-steps up. So I really worked my hips.
 The beauty of stairs is that you can work all angles of your leg, if you get creative. I found some stair workouts online if you wanted to check them out, or go for your own, just don't hurt yourself!

Playground Attack!
My husband and I used to train on the playground in our neighborhood to get ready for Tough Mudder. It was a lot of fun, and we definitely got a dynamic workout. Instead of seeing the playground as slides, look at it like an obstacle course, like Ninja Warrior or Wipe-Out. Seeing it in this way, make the whole playground look like a gym!
Slides are great for running up, ladders are great to climb, monkey bars are good for pull-ups. There are always stairs, so do tricep dips, single-leg squats, box jumps, or step-ups. The playground is an endless supply of fun ways to work out, I know we laughed about as much as we sweated when RB and I did this (mainly we laughed at how nonathletic I am).
Playgroud work-outs

I hope these ideas inspire you to try something new (and free) in your workout routine! It's a lot easier to keep working out if you make it fun and social. This week is the conclusion to the Shoe Challenge, and I'm pretty nervous that I won't make my 10lbs goal... but I am giving it my all this last week! Check it out on Thursday!

Making It Happen Monday: Weight-loss

I saved the most common New Year's Resolution for last. This month we've looked at different ways to tackle those New Year's Resolutions so they actually HAPPEN this year! And Monday is always a great day to make a fresh-start, so let's look at weight loss this week!



The NUMBER ONE thing to remember about this endeavor is that the weight-loss industry is a BILLION DOLLAR A YEAR industry. There are tons of pills, shakes, bars, drinks, online programs, books and gyms out there that want you to spend money on the "quick-fix" dieting lifestyle. I road that yo-yo dieting train for years and all it got me was cellulite. I never looked toned, I never kept the weight off and I never felt satisfied on any of those diets. Want to know why? Because those diet pills, shakes and bars aren't designed for you to keep the weight off.

Think about it, how would a company like Slimfast or Special K survive if there weren't people coming back to lose weight with their programs? Their products are designed to be low calorie and convenient to eat. That's it. If you look at the ingredients you will quickly find that they are packed with sugar (which quickly turns into fat and is addictive), has hardly any fiber (which means your always hungry), barely have any protein (which fills you up and feeds your muscles), they hardly have any nutrients, not to mention all of their products are over-processed AND usually they don't taste very good. So why waste your money on something that won't keep the weight off?

 I used to be 10 lbs heavier than I am right now. I have kept it off for 5 years. How? I started eating real food and I stopped mindlessly eating. I guess you could say I have gotten progressively pickier in what I eat, and it has reduced the size of my waist. I stopped eating the "diet" food, and started eating what I really wanted, but in smaller portions. And I injected more whole foods, like vegetables and whole-grain bread. Am I perfect? No, but I would say keeping off 10 lbs is a step in the right direction!

Here are some books that I found helpful in my weight-loss adventures and their principles have helped me keep off 10 lbs, and will hopefully keep off this next 10 lbs. They are about lifestyle changes, not quick fixes. The best weight-loss is slow weight-loss because it means you're burning FAT not just water-weight. 

Belly Fat Cure - Jorge Cruise

This Is Why You're Fat - Jackie Warner

YOU On A Diet - Dr. Oz & Dr. Roizen

The Eat Clean Diet - Tosca Reno

Naturally Thin - Bethenny Frankel

To gym or not to gym? That's the next question. To lose weight, most of us want to work out, along with cleaning up the diet. Working out has so many benefits, beyond weight-loss or muscle toning. I can't think right if I don't work out. It helps me clear my mind. Anyway, you need to find something that works for you!

Different strokes for different folks right? Let's say you have no idea what you like to do for exercise and that the closest thing to working out that you do is flipping your mattress every year or so. I have two suggestions: 1. Set a Goal 2. Try anything.

1. Set a Goal: Have you ever wanted to do the Komen Race for the Cure? Tough Mudder? Spartan Race? Warrior Dash? Triathlon? A Color Run? Be in a bodybuilding competition? Cage fight? Roller Derby?  Skateboard? Get a black belt? Anything? Any physical sport or activity? Do it. Find one a do it. Research the event and the best way to train for it, and then do it! I can't tell you how much easier it is to make yourself go run if you know exactly why you are doing it.


(Tough Mudder, day-of... all those months of training came down to this!)

It's always more fun to train with a buddy, so get a friend to do it with you and sign up! That way you have someone in your corner pushing you toward the same goal! 

Plus there is a deadline, therefore you will be more committed to each other. It becomes more than just working-out to look good, it gives your exercising a purpose. And if you can make exercise a social affair, then it gets 100 times easier!! Me and my friends meet to run in the weirdest places, but it makes it fun and I WANT to go do it. 

Some fun events to try:
Warrior Dash                  Spartan Races

2. Try EVERYTHING! Not the competitive type? Then it sounds like you need to find something very fun yet very physical. I say, try anything. I invite different friends to different workout classes/ things all the time (when the weather is nice anyway). I've taken some weird classes in my day, but I didn't know if I would like them or not unless I gave it a try. So if your friend has a Zumba DVD, ask to borrow it. Heck, why not invite your friend over and do it together? You'll probably laugh the whole time (which burns extra calories). Or borrow that dance game for Kinect from your little sister! Try the body-pump class at your gym. If you want to make a perminent change to your body, you have to find a way to make exercise fun for you!!

Gym/ Fitness Studios worth trying in Shreveport
Pak's Karate (they offer MMA-style classes as well)
Tankhead  (Muay Thai gym that offers women's only, self-defense and MMA style classes)

Rather start at home?? Here are some great DVD programs that I like or that I have great good things about from my friends:

Tapout XT (I am currently doing this program and I like it, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't had proper form taught to them. It doesn't have a lot of instruction.)
P90X (I've know several people who swear by this)
Insanity (my cousin lost 30 lbs with it)
Pilates (my sister loves this and the instructor on the DVD is the best ever!)
Carmen Electra Aerobic Striptease ( I did this in college and it totally changed my butt and legs! They're short workouts and surprisingly fun! Not sexy at all actually...)

I have found that to keep the weight off, I've had to make REALISTIC changes. If I tried to get too extreme, I just ended up getting on that yo-yo dieting train again.

Tomorrow! We are going explore some fun and free ways to work-out with your friends! The journey will be a lot more fun if you've got someone to complain to!

Shoe Challenge 2013: Week 3

Alright, so I have been trying to lose 10 pounds during the month of January. I lost 5 lbs my first week and .2 my second week. I have found that this third week has been the hardest. 

My husband came home last week. For some reason, I feel like that means we need to eat as many treats as possible. I guess I want to celebrate every time he comes home... but with food. 

I didn't realize how bad I was about this until now. I mean, I guess I always knew that I did it... but wow. I was craving sugar like a lunatic! He and I are both trying to lose weight, so why would I want to sabotage us like that? Sometimes I overcame my cravings, but a lot of the time I failed... in an epic way! 

Monday I got back on my diet horse though, and Wednesday I was back to normal. But it's weird that I use my husband coming home as an excuse to eat a bunch of sugary junk food. He doesn't even suggest any of these foods, it's all me. So, I have had to really check my attitude and habits. I really had to look at me and see why I was doing this. 

Happily, I am back to tracking my food and I've been exercising, even on my worst day! Most days it's twice a day. But I guess the results speak for themselves:



Now I'm on my last week... I'm kicking my butt this week!! 

Making It Happen: Doing Some Good (Donate)

This week we are looking into ways to be more charitable this year. Monday we talked about some places to volunteer in the community and Tuesday we looked at a way to shop and help others at the same time, the Do Good Store. Today, let's talk about another, and just as valuable way, to be charitable: donations.



Donations can be time, as discussed on Monday, monetary or items. Donating to your favorite charity is a wonderful way to give back to the community!  Of course you can cut them a check (which I sure they will greatly appreciate... and you can get a receipt from them and claim it on your taxes), but if you want to donate items to a charity, here are some things to think about.

Food :
Food banks and pantries always need non-perishable food items. A lot of people have food drives around the holidays, but they need supplies all year long. Donating canned goods, cereals, pastas, baby food or rice are great staples to donate. Calling the food bank or food pantry that you want to donate to is always a good idea to find out what items they need.

Something to think about when you gather items to donate to a food pantry or bank is couponing. If you happen to stumble across some coupons for baby food or diapers while you are browsing the coupoing sites, and you realize... oh! my grocery store is having a sale on these too... Cut those coupons! Use them and donate them to the food pantry. No one said you had to donate full-priced items! But do make sure to check everything you donate for the expiration date. No one can use an expired can of peas.

Furniture: There are a lot of other places to donate your old couch to than just Goodwill. Many charities, like the Providence House, takes these items and give them to a family who is trying to get back on their feet. If you donate gently worn furniture to charities that specifically work with families or battered women trying to bounce back from hard times, then you know your stuff is directly helpings someone in real need. Great furniture items to donate: kitchen tables, wooden chairs, beds, cribs, play-pins, bedroom furniture, side tables, and lamps. Everyone forgets about lamps, but they are very handy.

Office/ School Supplies:
These items are often overlooked when people think about donating. Charities that deal with children or families always need school supplies. They may give the supplies to children whose family can't afford it OR they use the items for activities at the facility. A lot of charities need office supplies for their own offices too. A lot of organizations send out mailers, print flyers, make lists, submit supply orders, and other tedious junk to actually run their programs. The less money they spend on office supplies, the more they can put back into their cause.  Great items to donate: printer paper, pencils, pens, paper clips, folders, binders, markers, highlighters, and construction paper.

Clothing: If you have gotten too skinny for that suit you bought back in college, don't donate it to Goodwill. Donate it to a homeless shelter! Some organizations that work with the homeless help facilitate job interviews and training. I would call around to shelters before defaulting to Goodwill, especially if your clothes are in good condition and could pass for office appropriate.

Wand to donate to an animal shelter??
YES! They take donations! But I'm going to go against the grain here and say not to donate food. A lot of shelters, like Pet Savers, use a specific brand on ALL of their animals. If you know the brand and type they use, go for it. But the best items to donate to animal shelters are: unopened  bottles of bleach, towels, leashes & collars in various sizes, dog or cat kennels, flannel blankets, brushes, and easy to wash bedding.

A rule of thumb when donating to any charity, call and ask what they need before you go. I would hate to load a bed into my car and take it downtown and find out that the charity I want to give to doesn't have room for it right now. In fact, for big items, there are several charities that will come pick up the item from your house and haul it away. That makes the donation process even easier! No matter how big or small, every donation does some good!


Boutique Bubble? : DO GOOD STORE

This week we are looking at ways to be more charitable. So here is a great way to make a difference! I don't feel like this store really qualifies as a just a Boutique Bubble, but it fits the theme for the week.

The Do Good Store is located on the Louisiana Boardwalk. It is a project that was developed and executed by The Simple Church here in Bossier City. The whole concept of the store is that everything you buy in the store, comes from and benefits a non-profit organization. 100% of the proceeds go to the charities that they work with.



So everything item in the store is part of Fair-Trade, and benefits a cause. For example, I bought my husband a really cute shirt that supports the Hub, a Shreveport homeless shelter. They also have really cute jewelry, clothing, kitchen wares, coffee, and even barbecue sauce! A purchase of any of these items will directly benefit a cause. They have things that benefit local charities, national and international charities.



The staff at the Do Good Store are friendly and can tell you all about the organizations that are behind the products. And the products aren't poor quality either. I loved the way a lot of the t-shirts felt.



The dresses were made of great fabrics and were durable. This is beyond buying a rubber bracelet to support a cause. You could actually carry a cool purse, for a cause. You could have a delicious barbecue, for a cause. It's amazing what good you can do, by shopping. Win-win, right??



A charity that one of the workers told me about got me really excited and I wanted to share it with you. It's called Africa New Life Ministry. You know how a lot of people will sponsor a child overseas so they can go to school and get basic medical care? Well, sometimes they can't keep up their donation, for their own financial reasons.



Unfortunately, some of these kids lose their sponsorship mid-school year. Well, if you buy a cup from the Africa New Life Ministries, you are buying the same cup that these kids get their day food ration in. This little plastic cup cost $25 but it supplements the funds to a child, if their sponsor dropped out for some reason. I think this is an amazing concept and a great charity. I can see myself buying people cups for their birthdays or for baby showers.

The Do Good Store is more than a boutique, it's a mission. It is a cute store, but it does some great stuff. I say check it out, especially if you plan on going to the Boardwalk any time soon. It's a two thumbs up from me!

DO GOOD STORE

Age

ANY and ALL!!

Price Point

$$ - Average

Style

Eclectic

Don’t Miss

The Africa New Life Ministry cups

Forget

Your pride. Learning about all these amazing charities and what good people do for each other is a really humbling experience.

Location

Louisiana Boardwalk, Bossier City, LA

You can also order off of their website


Making It Happen Monday: Doing Some Good (Volunteering)

It is Monday, the day everyone tries to get back on track... whatever your track may be. Over the last two weeks we looked at ways to help you get started on some common New Year's Resolutions: getting organized and saving money. This week is no different. This week we are going to look at ways to volunteer in your community or other ways to be more charitable.



If one of your New Year's Resolutions is to give back to your community, then let's think about the different ways one can do this. Today, I want to discuss how you can donate your time, and how the heck to find a charity to donate your time to, in any city.

So you've decided that you want to donate your time to a charity. You want to be a productive member or society and make a difference. Wonderful! Me too! But what do you want to do?

There are a lot of different types of charities out there. My mom volunteered at a wildlife rescue center at a state park when I was growing up, and my Aunt Kelly volunteers by being a tutor at a local school in her city. Both ways help out the community, but from two completely different points of view. What would work for you?

Like working with kids?

- The Gingerbread House works Bossier/ Caddo Children's Advocacy Center that helps abused children
- Shriner's Hospital for Children
- The Hilman House

Mentoring?

-Minden Youth Challenge Program 
this a program for at-risk teens and is located at Camp Minden. website 
- Rutherford House website
- Boy's and Girl's Club (Shreveport)  318.621.0900
  Barksdale Airforce Base Youth Programs
318.456.3448

Like to get your hands dirty?
- Habitat for Humanity website

Want to work with the homeless?
- The Hub 
Inner-city mission in Shreveport 
website
-  Shreveport-Bosier Rescue Misson facilitates various service opportunities of individuals and groups in the Shreveport Bossier area. 
website
- The Providence House works with families that have fallen onto tough times. 
website

Soup kitchen or Food Bank?
- Food Band of Northwest Louisiana is largest food distribution center in Northwest Louisiana. Their aim is to end hunger in our area for good.
website

- Most local churches either have a food pantry, or work with one. If you are a member of a church, ask how you can get involved!

Special Needs Service Opportunities?

- Holy Angels website
- The Arc Caddo-Bossier website 

More of an animal person?
- NWL Humane Society no- kill shelter 
 website
- Pet Savers a small and over populated no-kill shelter. Lots of dogs and cats who need walks and to be played with. (This is where we got Honey! This is a pic from when we first got her!)
 website



-Robinson Rescue  website

Not sure but I want to find out what's available in my area?

- Volunteers of America is a great site to see where volunteer opportunities are in your community.  website (NorthLa Division)
- Volunteer Match is another database of volunteer opportunities website

Okay, I've picked my cause. Now what? CALL THEM!! Set up a time to go visit the organization, even if you've been there before. You need to make sure that you speak to a real person there and get a full understanding of what your role will be and how much time you're donating. You may love hanging out with your crazy grandpa, but when it's someone else's crazy grandpa, it's not so fun. That's why making a visit before you commit is so important. It's a reality check.

General volunteering questions you need to ask yourself before you commit:

-
How much time can I REALISTICALLY donate? Be honest. You're not trying to impress anyone here. This is something that you wan to do. Sure it's for a great cause, but you need to be honest with what you can manage in your own life. If you can only do one day a week for two hours, WONDERFUL! That's more than you were doing, and that still benefits your cause. There are no gold-stars in volunteering.

-Can I see myself actually doing this type of work? Again, this is a gut check. That's why visiting the charity before you commit to volunteer is so important. At least call them up on the phone and have a good conversation about it. You may be thinking that you'll be doing one thing one way, but when you get there, you realize that's not how they do it at all. You're not going to re-invent the wheel when you get there. You need to see if you actually like the type of work that you are volunteering for, before you do it... or you won't stick to it.

-What do I expect from this experience?
If you have any expectations about what you're going to be doing... then you probably need to re-evaluate your intentions here. If you're expecting to change a homeless man's life and he becomes a senator one day and thanks you in his induction speech, then you're doing it wrong. Volunteering means that there is no end game. You want to help out a cause, because you want to help out a cause. Sure, your goal is to end hunger if you're volunteering at the food bank, but you're not doing that for you. Be honest with yourself about your intentions, because if you're expecting some kind of recognition from it, then you won't enjoy the experience.

Shoe Challenge 2013: Week 2

Shoe Challenge? Lose 10 lbs by the end of January. Last week I lost 5lbs!! This week...



I lost .2 lbs. I am going to chalk this up as a victory... small. But I'm not going backwards. I'm not going to make an excuse here, but I did eat Romen Noodles, brownies and popcorn at a girl's night last night. Was I perfect? HECK NO! It's a girl's night. One of my friends rode in a car-seat. Anyway, I'm hoping for better numbers next week. Picking myself up and moving on!


Making It Happen... Sort of...

After blogging about couponing, I got so inspired to save money on groceries and household items, that I planned a big shopping trip. I wanted to go buy a bunch of food, portion it/ prep it/ freeze it, so this month my husband and I would have almost ALL of our meals ready to go. I read this whole blog about it and everything. 

Alas... my dreams were not meant to be yesterday. Yesterday, the weather was cold and icy, which means that there were well over 2 dozen wrecks in the Shreveport and Bossier City areas. Interstates were closed and so were certain bridges, which meant I was not going to have my big shopping trip...yesterday. 



Oh, I will have my shopping trip. And you will see if I save money. Because I am very anxious to do this. It will happen, just not today. 

I do want to give you the link to the blog I read about prepping family meals for MONTHS at a time. Insane you say. I beg to differ. Check it out!

Making It Happen: Money Matters

It is the month of New Year's Resolutions and this week we are tackling Money Matters. Yesterday we looked at some websites and television shows that can help your with your cash whoas.



Today, I want to talk about finding great deals that will save you money. I didn't think this was going to be a very fun blog to write, if we are being honest. But I got sucked into this world of coupons and savings that I scheduled myself a big shopping trip with coupons and everything to see if I could really save some money with coupons and the technique (more on that tomorrow).

Anyway, most of us don't coupon because it is too time consuming. But I have found a few websites that you can use together to help you save on your most-used items. I even found a site for organic fair (with is always the hardest coupon to find!).

COUPON SITES!!
Coupon sites are great because they don't give you all of the hassle of thumbing through the newspaper and clipping yourself. Most coupon sites offer manufacture's coupons that can be used at most big chain stores. A lot of coupon sites are free, and they're a great way to save a few bucks each shopping trip. Extreme couponing? No. Potentially helpful? Yes.



CONS of the Coupon Sites: With most coupon sites, you
will have to download a "coupon printer." This is a program that formats the coupons to actually print, but they also send information to the site (in some cases). If you feel sketchy about downloading this coupon printer, you can do something that I have practiced. I would find a bunch of great coupons on one site, download the printer, print, and uninstall the program. Then I would run a virus and spyware scan to make sure there were no hidden programs. But I'm weird about that kind of stuff sometimes.

Recommended Sites

ShopLocal.com - This site is great because it tailors itself to your area. So you put in your zip code, and it gives you the weekly circulars for several major stores in your area, like Target, Khols, Kmart, and Best Buy. It also gives you access to several manufacture or store-specific coupons. As with all coupon sites, the coupons change and expire. But the great thing about this site is that you don't need the newspaper to find coupons for stores in your area. They do NOT have circulars for Albertson's, Brookshire's, or Kroger.

SmartSource.com
- This site doesn't have a lot of frills and ads like the other coupon sites. Sometimes it would take me five minutes to find the dang coupons on the other sites! But this one is straight-forward and easy to use. You will have to download a java-based printer.

healthesavers.com - This site gives great coupons for natural and organic products. I was so glad to find this, because sometimes organic food is just a few dollars more expensive than the regular stuff. But if I can print a coupon to take the edge off the spending, while getting less artificial junk in my diet, I'll do it.
(There is a great article on sustainable-live-work-play.com. Here is a link to get you to their top recommended couponing sites for organic products.)

If you can't find a brand or item you want on these websites, I have one more suggestion for you. Go to the manufacturer's site and search for coupons. Most big chains, like Target and Walmart, have a whole section devoted to coupons on their website. Also, products like Swiffer and Seventh Generation will send you free samples and coupons if you register on their website.



You make think, ekk, this is going to take too long! It really doesn't. Maybe an hour. If you make a list of things that you really need, then you will narrow down your coupon search. Plus, it depends on how much time you want to spend on it. I'm talking like $15-$20 of savings per trip for my small family of 2. But the deals easily multiply for larger families. A lot of these couponing sites have deals on diapers, kid's snacks and juices (all things that do not interest me or my husband at this point in time).

 A lot of stores will let you use your coupons and then let you get more benefits with their store's discount card. A lot of grocery stores do this, but I also got the Target Red DEBIT card and I save 5% on every trip I make to Target. It's the closest and cleanest store to my house, so I get most of our stuff there. It has been a game-changer!

Not so much a Couponing-Queen, more of a Social-Starlet?
You must register with the site to purchase any of these deals. What's great about these sites, is they are tailored to a specific area. It's a great way to try new restaurants, take new classes, and explore boutiques!

Groupon
Living Social

Must Be Fashionable?
Love designer brands? Love luxury? Only want the best? Check out these sites! All three of these sites require you to register to gain access to the website. But it really isn't that much of a hassle. I got a great deal last year on a Chan Luu bracelet (50% off!). (Great for finding gifts for people too!!)
Gilt.com
Modnique.com
ruelala.com

I got so inspired when I was researching for this article, that I have planned a big trip to the store to buy necessities and save some serious money! I'm not sure how serious, but if I can shave-off $20 off my shopping trip, then I feel like I succeeded. Check back tomorrow!!

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